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The End of Capitalism (?) at UMD

28 Sep

Alex Knight leading the End of Capitalism? Workshop during Radical Rush Week 2010

College Park Students for a Democratic Society hosted activist/writer Alex Knight and his workshop, The End of Capitalism(?) last week, and it was AWESOME. Alex writes a blog The End of Capitalism and is working a book with the same title. He’s a Philly-based teacher and a former organizer with the new SDS. Here’s a description of the workshop:

Alex’s workshop explored the End of Capitalism Theory. The theory goes that Global capitalism is “ramming up against limits to growth.” This ramming is causing “massive shocks” on the surface.

Where did capitalism start?

Alex starts with the feudal crises of primitive accumulation. He cites Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, which posits that the witch hunts of Europe in the 16th century were part of the state violence that was necessary to boost the capitalist system into existence. BUT there were other ways out of the crisis of feudalism, and people were fighting for these alternatives. Take the Hussite rebellion, for example: a liberation struggle in the area now called the Czech Republic. The Hussites were brutally put down by the Catholic church. Most of the Pope’s crusades were against Europeans, heretics. This violence created the enclosures of capitalism. Displacement as a result of the enclosures. The enclosures were fences or hedgerows constructed when Feudal lords took Peasant land. The results is many landless peasants left to be labor for emerging industrial factories and early forms of mass production. Landless working class (proletariat) and slave trade are important features of these changes.

Why were women attacked? Why were women burned at the stake? Women were leaders in their communities and in heretical communities. Women were able to reproduce. Capitalism cares about a lot of desperate people eager to work shitty jobs for not very much money. Attacking women was one way to control their reproduction. Patriarchy of the wage: women lost their roles, violently, and forced into the role of a housewife. Women were doing labor that help up the community but weren’t receiving any recognition or wage. Public festivals, orgies, etc . . . capitalism targeted and erased them because they existed in a non-productive space.

Capitalism is a system that depends on the violent exploitation of human life to turn a profit, and must do so at an increasing rate. Now there are new forms of violence that enclose people within capitalism.

Consider the Congo, for instance – there is a civil war going on. Why? Control of resources; militias fighting with the government over Coltan, a mineral found only in the Eastern part of DRC and used in many consumer electronics.

What is Capitalism?

Workshop participants brainstormed a sweet list of some of the characteristics of capitalism: profit, supply & demand, markets & distribution, alienation, private property, externalization, specialization, fluid, unequal distribution of wealth, suppression of alternatives, violence, and competition.

Brainstorming characteristics of capitalism

“Capitalism is kind of nasty business.”

Why are we in this crisis?

Here’s Alex’s suggestion: there ecological and social limits to capitalist growth. Limits to growth are a good thing.

Ecological limits are the inability for the earth to sustain the growth in the capitalist system. Capitalism demands an ever growing supply of resources.

Let’s talk about oil. Peak oil: the point at which the oil industry is producing the most oil that it ever has or ever will.

A few facts: peak oil is a real phenomenon, US oil production peaked in 1970. The discovery of oil reserves peaked three years ago, the production continues to increase. What about solar and wind? Great on a decentralized basis, but neither provide enough energy cheaply enough to replace oil.

How did we get to this place? Doesn’t capitalism offer solutions to crisis of energy? Sure, but we know that alternatives to oil would be super profitable, and we haven’t seen it yet. Remember that 40% of the energy the economy runs off of comes from oil.

Social limits are the limits imposed on the system by people, societies, and communities. Social movements are extraordinarily powerful. Ever since oppression has existed there have been people working against it. Pretty much all good things that have happened in the US have come from social movements.

Global Justice Movement – people getting together against the policies of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Washington Consensus. The Global Justice Movement was called for by the Zapatistas to disrupt the spread of neo-liberal economic policies. The Global Justice Movement was remarkably successful: the WTO has failed, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was never born, the World Bank and IMF have been discredited in the Global South. Latin America has been transformed as a result of social movements – right-wing, US-backed dictators have been replaced by populist and leftist governments.

In the past year, the Chinese Labor Movement has been becoming increasingly militant and have embarked on scores of strikes demanding higher wages and benefits. These workers are a brake on global capitalism – challenging the exploitation of multinational companies and ever-increasing growth.

What comes after Capitalism?

Two roads: 1.) Fascism, nationalism, militarism 2.) Democracy, sustainability, justice

Breakout groups brainstormed answers to the following questions:

Q: What have you seen occurring that would indicate a movement towards fascism? Reasons to be afraid . . .

A: surveillance, corporate control of elections, restriction on travel and migration, racism & xenophobia, corporate media and propaganda, the Tea Party, private prisons, and police militarization.

Q: What have you seen occurring that would indicate a movement towards democracy? (This is a harder question. Why?) Reasons for hope; change we can actually believe in:

A: localization, access to information, drugz, gay rights, people working together, co-ops, radical spaces, “green” movement, the US Student Movement (March 4), positive masculinities, mining resistance movements, DIY culture.

Alex pointed towards a common-sense radicalism. Instead of looking for dogma, we must use our experiences to explain the world and the root of systems of oppression. We need a holistic approach to social change. There is no vanguard. We need to work inside the system. We need to work outside the system. We need to build alternatives to the system. All at the same time.

Alongside this sense of common-sense radicalism is, what Alex posed as, a politics of healing. The notion that the Revolution is about becoming whole people and whole communities and capitalism is a global system of abuse and control and violence that must to be named as such and broken.

Mentioned for giggles: Dude you have no Koran:


March 4th (march forth) National Day of Action to Defend Public Education

4 Mar

Today’s the day. Meet at the Co-op at 12 or Art/Soc (Cordell Black Hall) after that.

March 4 in College Park

March 4 at the University of Maryland

UPDATE: 4pm Rally to End Police Brutality @ Tawes Plaza

Washington Post story on M4, with a report from College Park:

Organizer Bob Hayes said Maryland students are angry that their tuition dollars are going to pay for development projects and the salaries of administrators, instead of better instruction.

“We feel disconnected from our education,” Hayes said. “We’re being run by a Fortune 500 company instead of by a university.”

Here’s the first press hit, featuring CPSdS’s very own, Jon Berger:

USA Today: College students rally over tuition, education quality

•Students at the University of Maryland-College Park and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond plan to raise concerns about the effect of budget cuts on quality.

“We’re seeing more classes taught by adjuncts and grad students who aren’t getting paid (fairly). We’re seeing larger class sizes, and some kids in certain majors … can’t get all the courses they need in four years,” says Maryland junior Jon Berger.

Also, check out round-ups from around the country (with shout-outs to College Park!) on the blog, HuffPost, Socialist Worker, and CNN

Keep it here for updates!

March 4: Take Action to Defend Education

28 Feb

Open space for the education we desire

Public education is under attack.  Tuition is rising, teachers are getting laid off, programs are getting cut, and our schools are being run like corporations. The quality of our education is decreasing while student debt is rising and youth unemployment is at record highs. On March 4th, students and faculty around the country are participating in a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, and we’re gonna throw down in College Park.

Our university administration thinks that a quality education can be defined by rankings in magazines, freshman SAT scores, and federal research grants.  But we know that our education can’t be measured in dollars. We want to be equipped with the tools to fight for a world free of poverty, war and exploitation.

On March 4th, we are walking out of class and creating a space that can contain the education we desire.

At noon on Thursday, walk out of class and find each other in the STAMP by the food co-op.  We will march to Tawes plaza for a rally, and later move into the Art/Sociology building for discussions about hip hop and education, race and gender in the classroom, the corporate university, sports and education, and whatever else we want.  Then we’ll have a general assembly to talk about the state of our education, and where we want to take it, ending the night with a sick dance party.


March 4: National Day of Action to Defend Public Education

22 Feb

Resist Reclaim Rebuild

Defend Education

March 4

From the snowpocalypse:

On March 4, students across the nation will take action to reclaim education. The University as it exists is different than the University as we would have it exist. Students are the base of the University; we pay tuition, sit in classes, drive the buses, play sports and cheer in the stands. We provide whatever communal spirit exists. If the University exists as more than a series of buildings, then it begins with us. And yet, administrators and the state run our school as a business, draining more and more in tuition and fees out of students and their families while classes grow and the quality of our educational experience declines. We are not unique.

What the fuck is going on? Thurs 29 Oct 7pm ASY 1213

26 Oct
A teach-in on the University in crisis: corporatization and democracy at UMD

A teach-in on the University in crisis: corporatization and democracy at UMD

Join us on Thursday for a student teach-in on the University in crisis!

What the Fuck Happened?

3 Oct

What the Fuck Happened? What is the financial crisis and why do we care?

What the Fuck Happened?

What the Fuck Happened?

Who: Students for a Democratic Society . . . and all of you!!!

What: Student led teach-in on the financial crisis.

Where: Thurgood Marshall Room, Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland

When: October 7, 7pm

The event will be the first student-led event on the financial crisis at the University of Maryland. Members of CP-SDS will creatively and succinctly explain the root causes of the crisis, what the Bush administration and Congressional figures propose to deal with the situation, and how it will affect students.

What to post flyers? (pdf) (jpg)